Nukeduck secured himself the Fan Favourites Meme of the Split award with the Year of the Duck. Though it didn't come to full fruition in the Finals against Fnatic, the Year of the Duck still lives on for Schalke. Playing almost two dozen unique champions throughout the Summer Split, Nukeduck undoubtedly showed the strength of his team through his individual play and cooperation with his teammates. Single-handedly, Nukeduck allowed Schalke's bot lane the affordance of jungle pressure while he kept it cool in mid. And boy, did he ever keep it cool when up against Fnatic– Akali was on the menu and Lissandra was Nukeduck's diner of choice.
Though he took control of Game 1, the Finals were not meant to fall in favour of Schalke and they ended their Summer Split 2018 run 1-3 to Fnatic. Now facing the Regional Qualifier for Europe, Nukeduck reflected on how the Playoffs played out, the growth of the team across 2018 and what awaits them at Worlds if they take third seed.
This was your first Finals since 2013, how did it feel to be back?
Nukeduck: It was definitely special and just being able to enjoy such an event after grinding for over ten weeks, it felt very rewarding.
Everyone's been talking about the Year of the Duck but also about Caps, the Split MVP and your opponent in the Finals. Did that put extra pressure on you?
Nukeduck: I don't think so. When I play against Caps, I know how he plays pretty well. He has his own playstyle and, for some people, it might seem unpredictable but for me it's quite predictable. I rarely get scared playing against him. We knew they were probably going to pick Akali in Game 1 so that's why we left it there. Lissandra was just a decent lane into Akali and can shut her down in team fights so that's why I chose her.
How did it feel to have the support of the crowd behind you?
Nukeduck: It was amazing to have the crowd be almost for us even though we were facing Fnatic, the long-time champions. So I felt really great that we had the support and we tried to win for them.
Did you have any interesting moments at the fan meet?
Nukeduck: A lot. There were a lot of fans here cheering for us and, when we went out and there was the Fnatic queue starting, they were all still cheering for us while we walked out. There were so many people, I couldn't begin to count. It was amazing. I got a duck from my baby brother, he's 12 years old and he came here with a duck, and then I'm also getting some Schalke ducks– one of the Schalke supporters told me but he forgot them in Germany so I'll have to wait until we play in the gauntlet.
You joined Schalke when they were fresh out of Challenger Series. How has the organisation changed for the better over the course of 2018?
Nukeduck: It's not necessarily the organisation but it's the people involved in the team because the organisation is huge. Basically, in the start, we were way more strict about everything and it basically hampered us in many ways. We weren't playing as we should play and the way we lived was that of someone who might not have had a normal job– we basically had the whole day scheduled. I think it was really bad because each person needed their own space. It's a creative craft instead of something you just do. Letting everyone a bit more off the hook helped us a lot.
How do you find the creativity within your League play?
Nukeduck: So you can play decently if you just follow a very strict set of rules and you practice at the same time every day, but I think doing it that way will never be very good. You'll never have a truly positive impact on the team, so always thinking of how you can play differently in different situations is important. Many players play way too similarly in every situation. If you want to be really good, I think you need to be able to adapt to every situation while also having a good knowledge of what picks work in what drafts.
I think the two very obvious examples of this are Caps and Faker. They always play different styles based on what the enemy is playing or picking, or even based on the meta. They always have that edge they get from that mindset.
Over the past nine months, how have you seen yourself grow?
Nukeduck: What helped me was that we had we had a way too strict structure and it didn't allow for players to have the same say on how we played as maybe we should have. I think when we loosened it up, it was like a gap for me to really implement all of my thoughts about the game. Then I started to play my way. I think I have a really good understanding of how we should play and when my team listens to how I want them to play, it becomes way more comfortable for me. I already know that I've discussed this with a specific player or that with another player, so I know it minutes in advance and don't have to communicate about it. It's much easier for me to focus on my own thing knowing that everything else will fall into place.
Many other mid laners have commented on your stellar play during scrims that seems to disappear when you get on stage. Why do you think that is?
Nukeduck: I think this is a dead myth. I think there's little merit to this statement. In fact, I think in scrims I tend to int a lot because I try new things or I try to push it harder, but I think on stage I play quite well. I don't really see where that comment is coming from, maybe it's from old times.
I think, right now, it's hard to say but in some aspects I'm playing a lot better on stage. Not greeding, playing well towards objectives, but perhaps that comes at the cost of not playing as strongly individually. I think that's actually the same for every single pro player, though. Using Caps as an example, I think he would play better mechanically online even though he played very well, but I think everyone's mechanics are hurting a bit on stage.
How do you feel heading into the Regional Qualifier knowing you've missed out on the auto-seed?
Nukeduck: Missing Worlds is sad for us because, well, we're confident that we will get the third seed but going as third seed is obviously much worse. We had a very, very long and turbulent season. We started essentially while the other teams were in Spring Playoffs so I think we're going on almost three months of playing nonstop. It would have been a lot better for us to have had that space between now and Worlds so we could have at least one week of fully relaxing to reset. Right now, everyone is pretty tense and it's hard to learn how the other teams play. We aren't happy about not going first or second seed but we're confident we'll make third.
The first match of the Regional Qualifier is Splyce versus Misfits. Who do you think is going to win that?
Nukeduck: I think Misfits is going to win that. I don't know why Rekkles believes Splyce has been performing really well recently, the last time they played was in the Quarterfinals where they lost. I think Splyce can be very good, I think they're both very good teams, I just think Misfits is going to beat them. I also think that, if Splyce beats out Misfits, we're going to end up facing Splyce. But both of those teams on the bottom are better than G2, who got all their points from the last season. They're struggling, so Misfits or Splyce will meet us in the last set.
Do you think your match will be a tough one or do you think Schalke have a guaranteed win?
Nukeduck: Without being too overconfident, I think we're going to win. I think it won't even be a tough time for us.
Are you ready to play on the international stage?
Nukeduck: Yes. I think everyone will have some people having off games, I'm pretty sure about that. But I also think that, at the level we're at, we should be really fine. Obviously, the other teams will be much better– Fnatic are better than everyone here but they are also playing vastly different to how a Chinese or Korean team would play. I think we kind of play more like the Chinese or Koreans to an extent, so I think playing against someone that created what we try to do should be quite challenging.
Everyone will react differently to the pressure. We kind of know how everyone reacts and we can try to prevent things like tunnel vision on stage. We also have some idea of how we get tilted. We can get tilted in a way where we're not angry but we feel like we have to do something right that moment. If the enemy team is playing better than us, we can choke and just keep trying to do something without results.
What would it mean to you to make it back to Worlds?
Nukeduck: It would be a great experience, first of all. I've never played in Korea before, so I'm very much looking forward to that. Just playing there and matching my skill against the best players in the world, something I've also not been able to do for a very long time, will get me some perspective on things and will also be an awesome experience. I'm even looking forward to Solo Queue. When all the pros are there, it's just very exciting.
Is there anything you'd like to say to your fans back home?
Nukeduck: I would like to thank everyone that cheers for me. I'm really happy that I finally managed to get at least a second place finish for the people that have been supporting me through the years. I'm very thankful for that.
I'm really happy that I finally managed to get at least a second place finish for the people that have been supporting me through the years.